Workers are seen at an electronics manufacturing assembly plant in Biñan, Laguna, April 20, 2016. — REUTERS/ERIK DE CASTRO

EIGHT economic zone (ecozone) development projects worth a combined P33 billion were prequalified by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) in the first semester.

In a statement, PEZA said the eight approved projects consisted of three manufacturing ecozones, one information technology (IT) center and four IT parks.

PEZA Director-General Tereso O. Panga said the P33 billion worth of prequalified ecozone development projects in the first half were almost seven times higher than P4.86 billion last year.

“This uptick in ecozone development investment is crucial as it indicates a growing demand for proclaimed areas, which is further supported by the rise in new and expansion projects,” he said.

The biggest prequalified project is the North Cebu Economic Zone with an estimated total cost of P27.18 billion. The manufacturing special ecozone will rise in Medellin, Cebu.

The two other manufacturing ecozone projects have a combined cost of P233.26 million. It covers the expansion of the Lima Technology Center special ecozone in Malvar, Batangas and the Gateway Business Park special ecozone in General Trias, Cavite.

Meanwhile, the four IT parks will involve a total investment of P1.47 billion. Three of the IT parks will be in Quezon City, while one will be in South Cotabato City.

The P4.12-billion IT Center will be in Makati City.

The new and expansion ecozone projects will still need to be approved by the Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) to be eligible for tax perks. A presidential proclamation is also needed before the developers can enter into a registration agreement with the PEZA.

Meanwhile, the PEZA board last month approved a resolution that would streamline the ecozone proclamation process.

Board Resolution No. 23-138 now authorizes the PEZA director-general to endorse the proposed ecozone directly to the Office of the President for the issuance of a presidential proclamation. It is set to take effect immediately after the resolution is published in a newspaper.

A presidential proclamation is needed before areas could be designated as ecozones as provided under Republic Act No. 7916 or the Special Economic Zone Act as amended by Republic Act No. 8748.

“Hence, in all board resolutions granting prequalification clearance for ecozone applications, a provision stating that the board is authorizing the PEZA director-general to endorse the same to the President shall be provided,” according to the board resolution.

Mr. Panga said the resolution could allow more economic zones to be established in rural areas.

“As we are now beefing up our agency to continuously enhance our delivery of services and facilitate faster ecozone proclamations to provide ready-for-occupancy sites for our agile locators, it is high time for PEZA to amend its guidelines for a simplified application, proclamation, and registration process for new and expanding ecozone developer/operator projects,” Mr. Panga said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave